Wednesday 20 September 2017

Charlie Weston: The 'coping classes' are at breaking point and badly need a cut in income tax

Households are experiencing an easing of the financial pain, rather than a rise in prosperity.
Stock Image
Households are experiencing an easing of the financial pain, rather than a rise in prosperity. Stock Image
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The economy may be steaming ahead, with rising employment, encouraging economic performance figures and rising property prices.

But for the vast majority who have jobs there is no feeling of enhanced economic well-being.

That is the consistent message from the consumer-sentiment survey carried out by KBC Bank and the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

Households are experiencing an easing of the financial pain, rather than a rise in prosperity.

This gets to the nub of the problem for people almost a decade after the financial crisis and its attendant austerity drive: people on average incomes are still finding it difficult to make ends meet because the high cost of living in this country has not been matched by wage rises or income tax cuts.

This is in a country where we pay double the European average for childcare. The average Irish family spends 34pc of their household income on childcare.

Plenty of labels have sprung up to describe the people affected by this. They are variously called JAMS (just about managing), the coping classes, or the squeezed middle. Another is the sandwich generation - burdened with school or college-going children and dependant parents.

These are the people in the middle paying for everything and supporting those people who do not want to pay for anything, but instead want to send the bill to middle-income taxpayers. No wonder they feel shafted.

The top 50pc of taxpayers pay 96pc of all personal taxes. The tax snare means that only those earning more than €30,000 are stumping up.

We have now reached the bizarre situation where close to 750,000 income earners pay no personal tax, a figure that includes USC (universal social contribution).

That amounts to 30pc of workers, according to the Irish Tax Institute. So, three out of 10 workers pay no tax and no USC.

The failure to put in place a water charges regime and the freezing of property taxes means the Exchequer is overly dependent on income tax and corporation tax.

Newly-assertive public sector trade unions are determined to get a dividend from the rises in Government Exchequer returns. This is despite Davy Stockbrokers finding that public sector workers earn 40pc more on average than their private sector counterparts.

Those in the private sector need a break too. A fairer way to ensure all who make up the coping classes have their burdened eased would be for tax income tax cuts to form a central part of the next budget.

Sunday Indo Business

Also in Business